MIRAMSHAH / PESHAWAR, Jan 8: A senior Al Qaeda figure is believed to be among 12 people killed in two US drone strikes in Mirali area of the volatile North Waziristan tribal region on Monday night, a senior security official said.

Drones fired eight missiles on a house in Haiderkhel village, 30km from Miramshah, killing eight people. Among the dead were Sheikh Yasin Al Kuwaiti, a senior Al Qaeda operative, his wife and daughter, the official said.

Sheikh Yasin had married the daughter of a local tribesman, he added. “Eight missiles were fired on the compound he was living in with his family. His house has been turned into rubble.”

Unconfirmed reports from the region said the dead included two Uzbek militants.

Pakistani militants, who control the region bordering Afghanistan, cordoned off the area struck by the drones and took away the bodies and the wounded.

In the other strike that took place 15 minutes after the first one, four people were killed and two wounded at Hassokhel village in Mirali area. The villagers believe the dead were local militants.

There has been a surge in drone strikes in North and South Waziristan recently as there have been five such raids since the beginning of new year.

Maulvi Nazir, a militant commander having soft corner for Pakistan and who operated across the border in Afghanistan, was killed in such a strike last week.

AFP adds: The covert US drone strikes are publicly criticised by the Pakistani government as a violation of its sovereignty but American officials believe they are a vital weapon in the war against militants.

Legal lobby group Reprieve estimates that up to 900 civilians are among the 2,621 to 3,442 people killed by drones in Pakistan since 2004.

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